7 states prefer not to raise minimum age for marriage to 18

19 Nov 2019 / 14:16 H.

KUALA LUMPUR: The federal government is unable enforce a ban on child marriages nationwide because seven states have disagreed with the legislative amendment, the Dewan Rakyat was told today.

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said only Selangor has successfully amended its laws on child marriages.

“Enforcing any legislation on the minimum age for marriage can only happen if the states agree with it,” she said.

“Only Selangor has taken the necessary step while the Federal Territories is in the process of doing so. Five other states that have agreed to amend their respective laws are Penang, Sabah, Johor, Malacca and Perak,” she added.

“The seven states that are not complying are Sarawak, Pahang, Terengganu, Perlis, Negri Sembilan, Kedah and Kelantan,” Wan Azizah, who is also the Women, Family and Community Development Minister, said in her reply to Syed Ibrahim Syed Noh (PH-Ledang) during question time.

Syed Ibrahim wanted to know why the ministry has not been able to raise the minimum age for marriage to 18 to curb the child marriages while Indonesia has already raised the minimum age to 19 for women.

Wan Azizah added that her ministry is finalising the National Strategic Plan to Overcome the Reason of Under-age Marriage.

She also pointed out that for non-Muslims, marriages can only be registered if both partners are aged 18 and above, so there is no need to amend the law to specify the minimum age.

To a supplementary question from Syed Ibrahim if sexual grooming laws could be used to stem incidence of under-age marriages, Wan Azizah said it was difficult.

“Many parents believe it is good for the child to be married off, so it is very difficult to determine if it is a sexual crime,” she said.

She added that laws against sexual grooming are mostly aimed at preventing sex crimes against under-aged victims and online grooming.

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